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Historical Background


The Main Street in Davey in 1909 with its first blacksmith shop.

The Irish were the first immigrants to settle in northern Lancaster County, which was known as Rock Creek. When land became available through the Homestead Act and railroad grants, many other immigrants arrived, including the Danes in 1870 and a year later, Swedish settlers. Not all who came stayed, life on the prairie meant dealing with storms, blizzards, drought, grasshoppers, disease and much hard work. By 1871 a Pony Express station had been set up. The postmaster handled two to three letters a day for a salary of one dollar a month.

The Danish Lutheran Church formed a congregation in 1875. A church was built southwest of the town. Because of theological differences, the church divided into the Danish Lutheran of Rock Creek and Nazareth Lutheran in Davey. In 1890 the name Danish Lutheran was changed to Bethlehem Lutheran. In 1961 the Bethlehem and Nazareth Lutheran churches merged into one congregation.

When the Fremont-Elkhorn-Missouri Valley Railroad constructed its line from Fremont to Lincoln in 1885, area inhabitants chose a local marketplace near the railway for easy transportation.

A 40-acre plat for the village of Davey was filed in 1886 by the Western Town and Lot Company for the Pioneer Townsite Company. The village was named in honor of neighboring pioneer, Michael Davey. In 1886 the first passenger train passed through Davey and the first store and blacksmith shop were opened. The first home in Davey was built in 1887 and the first grain elevator and lumber yard and drug store began operation.

The English Methodist built a church in 1888 on the present site of St. Mary's Catholic Church. After three years, hard times and financial strain caused the congregation to sell the property to the Catholic's and unite with the Ceresco Methodist Church.


Peterson's Home

In 1889 a one-room school was built in Davey with 50 to 60 students enrolled. In 1919 a three-room building replaced the one-room school and the ninth and tenth grades were also added. Eleventh grade was added the next year and by 1933 the twelfth grade was added. Davey High School was discontinued in 1942 but K-8 grades continued. In 1969 the district became part of the Raymond Central District.

By 1891 the Nazareth Lutheran congregation was organized and a church built in 1892. The land was donated by the Fremont and Elkhorn Railroad. A second split occurred in 1896 and a third congregation was formed. This third congregation merged with the Nazareth congregation. In 1961 both of Davey's Lutheran churches merged into one.

In 1891 the village had a two-story opera house, a livery barn, a meat market, an ice house, a barber shop, a doctor's office and a confectionery-stationery shop. A rooming and boarding house served meals for twenty-five cents. Each board, room and laundry was $2.50 per week. Many homes were also being built during these years.

As early as 1900, a newspaper, the Davey Mirror, was published by the Interstate Company of Lincoln.


The new brick bank building in Davey in 1903.

In 1903 a charter was issued to the Farmers State Bank of Davey. The new bank building was located in the center of town. After the fire of 1919, the bank purchased the site of the former drugstore and in 1921 moved across the street to its new building. The Davey Tavern was granted a license in 1939 and still occupies the 1903 bank building. Many banks closed during the depression, but the local Farmers State Bank managed to survive. G.A. Frampton purchased the bank in 1949. In 1960 the bank changed its name to "Cornhusker Bank" and moved to North 14th Street in Lincoln. The Cornhusker Bank built a new building in 1979 at 11th and Cornhusker Highway.

Telephone service came to Davey in 1908. The 1919 fire destroyed the telephone office but a house was moved from across the street for its new office. Sometime before 1914, Davey's streets were graded. The following year brought a new business to the village, the Nelson and Neff Ford Agency and Service. This new business also had Davey's first gas pumps.

The Davey Cooperative Grain Company was incorporated in 1915 and later bought out the Arbor Elevator six miles south. In 1969 the elevator merged with Agnew to form the Farmers Co-op Elevator Company. In 1976 and again in 1981 the elevator suffered fires. The damaged elevator was rebuilt after the 1981 fire and was sold in 1982.

In August of 1919, the Catholic Church caught fire. The fire had spread considerably before it was noticed. Burning shingles carried by the wind, started more fires in the business area. Most business buildings on the west side of the main street were turned to ashes.

The Iowa-Nebraska Power Company brought electricity to Davey in 1923. The village was incorporated that year. The new St. Mary's Catholic Church was also dedicated.

Davey was a brief stop for Vice-President Charles Dawes and General John J. Pershing. They spoke briefly from the observation platform of their railway car. Another famous person to speak in Davey was William Jennings Bryan. He spoke on "Free Coinage of Silver and Free Trade" at the Davey Hall sometime between 1913 and 1919.

For a number of years Davey offered free movies one night a week during the summer. Freshly popped corn could be purchased from a young man who later became the area's most widely known merchant, "Ernie of Ceresco."

The Davey Hall was built as a WPA project in the late 1930's. A two-day carnival celebrated its dedication.

In 1943 Arthur and Oliver Christensen moved their business to Lincoln at 11th and M Street. Their dealership sold appliances and television sets. The Lincoln business is still owned and operated by the family.

The installation of a water system was a major improvement in 1958. In 1963 Highway 77 to North 14th Street was hard-surfaced. The Davey sewer system was installed in 1965.

Hansen's Grocery also closed in 1965 and Davey has had no grocery store since. In 1973 Davey's streets were armor coated.

The last Chicago Northwestern train passed through Davey on September 10, 1981. The railroad is now gone. The tracks have been removed and the roadbed filled and leveled to make a hiking trail.

The present population of the town is about 180 people.

The Tothill Cemetery west of Davey

Tothill 1
Tothill Cemetery
Tothill 2
Tothill Cemetery
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